Who Caught My Eye: Week 3, 2020

September 29, 2020

Thank goodness the SEC kicks into action next week. The current lineup of games is woefully thin in quality prospects and I feel like I have almost exhausted the legit prospect rundown in certain conferences. But let’s talk about some of the good, as well as the bad, from Week 3…

After a couple of games, it seems to me that PITT is a quality team, with serious Bowl aspirations.  They also feature a pretty nice group of 2021 Draft prospects, on both sides of the ball. I was particularly enthused by their matched pair of Senior DE’s, as they made the Syracuse Offense look anemic. RASHAD WEAVER (#17) is the bigger name here, and is bouncing back after missing the 2019 season to injury. It’s always nice to see players rebound from serious injury issues and WEAVER is off to a solid start in that regard. WEAVER is a large man (6’5/270) who has some power to go with his quickness off the snap. His long arms reach out like tentacles to corral opposing QB’s. He also pays attention to setting the edge against the run. Against the Syracuse OL, he had a field day with 7 tackles, 5 of them solo, while recording 3 TFL, 2 of those Sacks. He also brought pressure on several other occasions. Meanwhile on the other side of the DL, PATRICK JONES (#91) demonstrated his versatility as an all-around defender. JONES is a bit smaller, but at 6’5, 260, he also can get the job done against the run or the pass. He first became a starter for them in 2019, and finished the year as a First Team ACC DE, recording 8.5 sacks. Against Syracuse, he collected 4 tackles, 3 solo, including 1 TFL. Now that opponents realize that WEAVER is back at full strength, they will concentrate more on him, which will likely allow JONES to pad those numbers of his. I was originally disappointed when their standout DT JAYLEN TWYMAN opted out of the 2020 season, but it looks like there is plenty of quality left on this PITT defense.

Meanwhile, I am still trying to decide if I really believe that QB KENNY PICKETT (#8) has pro potential or not. It seems like he has been the Panthers starting QB for about a decade now, though this is really only his 3rd go-round at the helm of the PITT Offense. I think he has an adequate, though not special arm strength. He also shows good mobility to extend plays and even run for a few yards when the pocket totally collapses. However, he also has the bad habit of throwing almost as many INT’s as he does TD passes. In 2019, he threw for 13 TD’s and 9 INT’s. He seems to tighten up a bit when the pressure is really on, and will leave too many drives unfinished. This season will be a bit harder to grade him on due to a loss of his leading receiver FFRENCH. Then again, his receivers in 2019 led FBS teams with 44 drops. Against Syracuse, he completed 69% of his 36 throws, but for only 215 yards. That is just under 6 yards per throw. His 2 TD passes were offset, as usual, by 1 INT.  Ball security is a concern with him, and it makes me wonder about his hand size. I have no delusions of PICKETT ever being an NFL starting QB, but I am wondering if he could be a late Draft Pick with a career as a backup as a pro.

I saw almost nothing of interest on the Syracuse side of things. I will reserve judgement there and look to comment on Syracuse S ANDRE CISCO later in the season.

I am still scratching my head and wondering why I hear constant buzz about APP STATE QB ZAC THOMAS and his pro potential. I am NOT impressed, and can almost guarantee, barring a miraculous rise in his fortunes in the next couple of months, that he will not be ranked as a draftable QB on my prospect list. What surprised me the most was his lack of accuracy on certain throws. He is reasonably mobile but not a big running threat. The Marshall Defense handled him most of the game when he passed 22/28-  58%- 268 yds- 1 TD- 1 INT.

Speaking of the Marshall side of things, I believe they have a handful of Day 3 Draft prospects on their roster right now. Their big LT JOSH BALL (#79) was originally recruited into the Florida State program. However, when things fell apart and JIMBO FISHER left Tallahassee for College Station, BALL packed his bags and went Juco for a year. He has emerged at Marshall as their starting LT this season. He blocks out the sun at 6’8/350 and would likely be the best OL for the Seminoles this season if he was still there. He has decent mobility for his size and does a nice job of using his long arms and big hands to maintain contact distance with defenders in pass-pro. In the run game, his best work seems to be in seal blocking to the inside. He’s a bit stiff, but gets his job done much of the time. His frame and play remind me of MAX SCHARPING (NIU), now starting at OG for the Texans. Looks like a Day 3 draftee to me.

The guy who most excited me in this contest was Marshall Junior RB BRENDEN KNOX. He’s a nice sized (6’0/220) player who gained 1,387 yards rushing last season, including 11 TD’s. He is not a home-run threat, but can burst his way to 10-15 yards with solid blocking, which his OL at Marshall gives him much of the time. He shows good contact-balance, but he needs to work on his cut-back moves to increase his yardage. He dominated the run game with 138-yards on 28 carries, and 1 TD run. That’s just under 5 yards/carry. And it’s safe to say he punishes defenders who take him head on. He’d be a threat for a 2,000-yard rushing season at Wisconsin or Ohio State. Assuming KNOX comes out  for the 2021 Draft, I could see him in Round 3, even in a crowded RB group.  They don’t use him much as a receiver, but I think that skill set could be developed.

It took a while to get going, but the UCF Knights got rolling in the second quarter and handily beat a much improved GA TECH team. I want to digress for a second and advise any of you college football fans that have not watched a Tech game yet this year, that Head Coach GEOFF COLLINS, in only his second year with the program has recruited well already and the roster talent for the Yellow Jackets is clearly on the rise. True Frosh QB JEFF SIMS is an excellent athlete and off to a solid start this season. I would expect this team to move past their 3 Wins of last season. COLLINS came to Tech with a reputation as an excellent recruiter. That looks to be true already.

Now back to the UCF side of things. The team lost its top receiver, GABRIEL DAVIS, to the NFL in the 2020 Draft (BILLS). But as you might expect, the well is far from dry in their receiving corps. When TRE NIXON was hurt in the first half, the team just continued to operate in their high speed Offense, and it was Senior WR MARLON WILLIAMS (#6) that picked up the slack without NIXON in the second half. And young QB DILLON GABRIEL just kept targeting WILLIAMS, who caught 51 balls in 2019, including 6 for TD’s. Against TECH, WILLIAMS was targeted 13 times, recording 10 receptions for 154 yards and 2 TD’s. WILLIAMS has nice size at 6’0/222, and though he’s not a speedy deep threat, he has enough speed to get separation and showed some nice moves after the catch. He is also less than a tempting tackling target for DB at his weight and body build . Let’s call him a solid possession receiver thats can rack up yards after the catch. Do not sleep on this guy as a Day 3 draftee next year.

It sure looks like the Miami Hurricanes will emerge as one of the top teams in the ACC behind Clemson this season. HC MANNY DIAZ and his staff did a nice job of trolling the Transfer Portal and picking up some plums. Yes, I like QB transfer D’ERIQ KING (#1) quite a lot, but want to see a few more games with him at the helm before slapping a prospect grade on him. Let’s just say he fits in the RUSSELL  WILSON mold for now.

But the most important transfer may just be the grad student who came across town from FIU to the school that he wanted to be at coming out of high school. His name is JOSE BORREGALES (#30) and he is a Place Kicker. And the best one the ‘Canes have had in quite some time. In their big conference win @ Louisville, JOSE was 5/5 on Xtra-points and 4/4 on Field Goals, including one for 57-yards. In fact, for his college kicking career, BORREGALES is 5/7 on attempts of over 50-yards. His strength and accuracy could make him a Top 100 Prospect for the 2021 NFL Draft. He stands 5’10 and weighs 205 lbs. He has a nice smooth kicking motion and does not have to force the long kicks. I would conservatively estimate that half the teams in the NFL could seriously upgrade their PK situation by adding him to their roster next year.

Miami pretty much handled the Louisville team in a 47-34 victory, but Louisville has some legit Draft prospects with Jr. WR/RS TUTU ATWELL being the most dynamic of them all. ATWELL is 5’9/165 with a combination of speed and quickness which will earn him a roster spot at the pro level. For a somewhat diminutive guy, he displays very sticky hands. In 2019, he caught 70 balls at 18+/ypc, including 12 TD’s. Against Miami on Saturday night, he caught 8 balls for 114 yards and 2 TD’s. He was by far the biggest weapon Louisville had in the game and made multiple Hurricane defenders looked for their jock straps on the field. He reminds me some of TAVON AUSTIN coming out of WVU, but he’s more of a natural receiver than AUSTIN, who is still hanging on at the end of rosters around The League. ATWELL has the explosiveness and productivity to make a mark in the NFL. Expect him to come out early for the 2021 Draft. I would also not be surprised if an NFL team with a winning record took him late in Round 3 to add sizzle to their Offense and return game.

Once in a while you can clearly get a read on a guy at a mediocre/poor program that has talent that far exceeds most of the rest of the guys he plays with. Both athletically, and production wise, ZAVEN COLLINS (#23), a hybrid-LB for Tulsa, seems to fit that bill. I watched him stand out in his teams competitive effort, losing 7-16 to Oklahoma State. COLLINS is listed at 6’4/255 and notched 97 tackles for Tulsa in 2019. He lines up in multiple spots to fill multiple roles for the Golden Hurricanes.  He stands out athletically, and also looks to have a very high FBI. He’s not just running wild out there. He has a clue on what is happening around him. He is an impact player against both the run and the pass. Against the Cowboys, he recorded 6 tackles, all of them solo efforts, with 4 TFL, 3 of them Sacks. He’s a Junior, but after all the chaos of Covid-19, I would expect him to take early entry to the NFL. He is the kind of guy who should stand out athletically at the Combine workouts.

After 2 days of blackout conditions here at my home, I feel like I have caught up and can attack games from last weekend, which I am delighted to say included the start of SEC games. Hallelujah!